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Basic Anatomy of

Spinal Cord
Dr Shahid Nawaz
SR Medical Unit 2
Nishtar Hospital Multan

Learning Objectives

Discuss the structure and functions of the

spinal cord.
Describe the major components of a spinal
nerve and relate their distribution to their
regions of innervation.
Discuss the significance of neuronal pools.
Describe the steps in a neural reflex.
Explain how reflexes interact to produce
complicated behaviors.

General Organization of the Nervous

Divisions of the Nervous System
Brain and spinal cord
In the white matter, axons arranged in
tracts and columns

Remainder of nervous tissue

An Introduction to the Anatomical

Organization of the Nervous System

Gross Anatomy of the Spinal Cord

Adult spinal cord
Localized enlargements provide
innervation to limbs
31 segments
each segment has a pair of dorsal roots
and a pair of ventral roots

Filum terminale
Conus medularis
Spinal nerves extend off cord
Mixed nerves

Gross Anatomy of the Adult Spinal


Spinal meninges
Provide physical stability and shock
Three layers
Dura mater
Pia mater

Dura mater

Covers spinal cord

Tapers to coccygeal ligament
Epidural space separates dura mater from walls of
vertebral canal

The Spinal Cord and Spinal


The Spinal Cord and Spinal


Interior to dura mater are the
subdural space, the arachnoid and
the subarachnoid space
Subarachnoid space contains CSF

Pia mater
Meshwork of elastin and collagen
Innermost meningeal layer
Denticulate ligaments extend from
pia mater to dura mater

The Cervical Spinal Cord

Sectional anatomy of the spinal cord

White matter is myelinated and

unmyelinated axons
Gray matter is cell bodies,
unmyelinated axons and neuroglia
Projections of gray matter toward
outer surface of cord are horns

The Sectional Organization of the

Spinal Cord

The Sectional Organization of the

Spinal Cord

Horns of spinal cord

Posterior gray horn contains somatic and visceral sensory nuclei

Anterior gray horns deal with somatic motor control
Lateral gray horns contain visceral motor neurons
Gray commissures contain axons that cross from one side to the

White matter
Divided into six columns (funiculi) containing
Ascending tracts relay information from the
spinal cord to the brain
Descending tracts carry information from the
brain to the spinal cord

Animation: Spinal cord dissections (see tutorial)

31 pairs of spinal nerves

Nerves consist of:

A Peripheral Nerve

Spinal nerves
White ramus (myelinated axons)
Gray ramus (unmyelinated axons that innervate glands and
smooth muscle)
Dorsal ramus (sensory and motor innervation to the skin and
muscles of the back)
Ventral ramus (supplying ventrolateral body surface, body
wall and limbs)
Each pair of nerves monitors one dermatome

Peripheral Distribution of Spinal


Peripheral Distribution of Spinal



Nerve plexus
Complex interwoven network of nerves
Four large plexuses
Cervical plexus
Brachial plexus
Lumbar plexus
Sacral plexus

Peripheral Nerves and Nerve Plexus

The Brachial Plexus

The Branchial Plexus

The Branchial Plexus

The Lumbar and Sacral


The Lumbar and Sacral


Principles of Functional Organization

General organization
Sensory neurons
Deliver information to CNS

Motor neurons
Distribute commands to peripheral

Interpret information and coordinate

Neuronal pools
Functional group of interconnected
Neural circuit patterns
Serial processing
Parallel processing

The Organization of
Neuronal Pools

An introduction to reflexes

Reflexes are rapid automatic responses

to stimuli
Neural reflex involves sensory fibers to
CNS and motor fibers to effectors

Reflex arc
Wiring of a neural reflex
Five steps
Arrival of stimulus and activation of
Activation of sensory neuron
Information processing
Activation of motor neuron
Response by effector

Components of a Reflex Arc

Reflex classification
According to
Site of information processing
Nature of resulting motor response
Complexity of neural circuit

Methods of Classifying

reflex classifications
Innate reflexes
Result from connections that form
between neurons during development

Acquired reflexes
Learned, and typically more complex

More reflex classifications

Cranial reflexes
Reflexes processed in the brain

Spinal reflexes
Interconnections and processing events
occur in the spinal cord

still more reflex

Somatic reflexes
Control skeletal muscle

Visceral reflexes (autonomic reflexes)

Control activities of other systems

and more reflex

Monosynaptic reflex
Sensory neuron synapses directly on a
motor neuron

Polysynaptic reflex
At least one interneuron between sensory
afferent and motor efferent
Longer delay between stimulus and

Neural Organization and Simple


Spinal Reflexes
Range from simple monosynaptic to
complex polysynaptic and
Many segments interact to form complex

Monosynaptic Reflexes
Stretch reflex automatically monitors
skeletal muscle length and tone
Patellar (knee jerk) reflex

Sensory receptors are muscle spindles

Postural reflex maintains upright

Components of the Stretch


The Patellar Reflex

Intrafusal Fibers

Polysynaptic reflexes
Produce more complicated responses
Tendon reflex
Withdrawal reflexes
Flexor reflex
Crossed extensor reflex

The Flexor and Crossed Extensor


Polysynaptic reflexes

Involve pools of interneurons

Are intersegmental in distribution
Involve reciprocal inhibition
Have reverberating circuits to prolong
the motor response
Several reflexes may cooperate to
produce a coordinated response

Control of spinal reflexes

Brain can facilitate or inhibit motor
patterns based in spinal cord
Motor control involves a series of
interacting levels
Monosynaptic reflexes are the lowest level
Brain centers that modulate or build on
motor patterns are the highest

Reinforcement and
Reinforcement = facilitation that
enhances spinal reflexes
Spinal reflexes can also be inhibited
Babinski reflex replaced by planter reflex

The Babinski Reflexes

You should now be familiar


The structure and functions of the

spinal cord.
The three meningeal layers that
surround the CNS.
The major components of a spinal
nerve and their distribution in relation
to their regions of innervation.
The significance of neuronal pools.
The steps in a neural reflex.
How reflexes interact to produce